Poland | Parliament passes media law, the majority’s future is uncertain

(Warsaw) The Polish parliament passed a controversial media law on Wednesday evening that, according to the opposition, threatens freedom of the press and undermines relations with the United States.

Posted on Aug 11, 2021 at 3:14 pm Updated at 7:10 pm

Bernard OSSER Agence France-Presse

The law, the draft of which has already been criticized by Washington, could force the American group Discovery in particular to sell a large part of its shares in the Polish private television broadcaster TVN, which is often critical of the government.

The text was adopted with 228 votes in favor and 216 against. Ten MPs abstained.

The parliament’s decision represents “an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression and media independence,” TVN management said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

“The result of today’s vote undermines property rights, which worries foreign investors in Poland. It undoubtedly undermines the foundations of the Polish-American alliance that has been built over the past 30 years, ”said the television line, which also called on the Senate and the President to reject the law.

The US expressed “deeply concerned” about the passage of the law on Wednesday evening through the voice of diplomatic chief Antony Blinken.

“This bill would severely weaken the media environment that the Polish people have worked on for so long,” the Foreign Minister said in a statement, adding that the project “violates the principles and values ​​that modern and democratic nations defend”. “.

Four lost votes

The vote on this law took place during a stormy parliamentary session the day after the ruling coalition dissolved.

The trigger was the resignation of his deputy Jaroslaw Gowin, ordered by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the chairman of one of the three parties in the coalition, which had ten votes in parliament.

On Wednesday, the ruling right lost a total of four votes, an unprecedented result since it came to power in 2015.

The opposition initially managed to postpone the parliamentary session to September 2.

The President of the State Parliament, Elzbieta Witek, decided, amid shouts of protest from the opposition, to repeat this vote.

“Crook, crook”

The vote was ultimately won by the ruling Conservatives, backed by some MPs from an anti-system Kukiz-15 group who supported the adjournment in the first vote.

The results were shouted “crooks, crooks! », Launched by the opposition. Oppositionists who questioned their legality abstained.

The right continued the debates that led to the vote on the media law.

This is an important law for the populist Law and Justice Party (PiS) and its chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which already controls the public television TVP, which has become a government propaganda medium, and controls much of the regional press.

The “United Rights” coalition, led by the PiS, is regularly accused by the European Union of restricting democratic freedoms in the country.

On Tuesday evening, thousands of people demonstrated against the media law across Poland.

Got stuck in the mud of corruption

The collapse of the coalition does not mean that the government will automatically overthrow because it would require a formal vote of no confidence in parliament. The government could go on as a minority.

Observers say Wednesday’s vote results show that the PiS has a very uncertain majority and that it must negotiate with MPs from other parties, including the far right, before any vote.

“The parliamentary majority, stuck in the mud of corruption and blackmail, is collapsing before our eyes,” wrote former EU leader Donald Tusk, who heads the largest opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO), on Twitter.

“It can go on for a while, but it is no longer able to rule,” he said.

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